Week In Review

March 18, 2007

Anne Arundel

Plans scrapped for horse park

The state has scrapped its quest to build a giant equestrian park in Anne Arundel County amid new, daunting local opposition: a competing bid from the county to turn the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm into parkland that would likely preserve the organic farming operation, state and local officials said.

J. Robert Burk, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, said the county's new move eliminated any chance for the state to muster the necessary political support - specifically from County Executive John R. Leopold - for the estimated $114.2 million project off Route 3 in Gambrills.

"It was a good signal to bow out. ... We were trying to reach out with open arms to the community and its leadership, but that got lost in the mix," he said. "We were not going to bring a proposal if local representatives were not in favor of it. It was disappointing, to say the least."

Burk said the board and the Maryland Stadium Authority remain committed to a horse park in Maryland - but not in Anne Arundel County. "We have intense interest from other parts of the state," he said.

Maryland section, Wednesday, March 14

Anne Arundel

Prosecutors can use Blake's confession

Federal prosecutors will be allowed to use an Annapolis teenager's confession to police in a 2002 fatal carjacking in Annapolis' upscale historic district, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore ruled.

The decision by Judge William M. Nickerson was a setback for the defense of Leeander Jerome Blake and a victory that had eluded state prosecutors, costing them a murder case. State courts ruled the confession inadmissible; federal authorities later charged Blake with carjacking resulting in death and related counts.

"It's a significant evidentiary ruling," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "But the question of the defendant's guilt or innocence remains to be decided at trial."

Blake, who was then 17 and is now 21, and Terrence Tolbert, his neighbor in the Robinwood public housing complex, were charged in Anne Arundel County in the Sept. 19, 2002, fatal carjacking in which Straughan Lee Griffin, 51, was killed in front of his home. Authorities think they shot Griffin as he was unloading his car, then ran him over with it as they fled.

According to federal prosecutors, Blake admitted that he and Tolbert had gone to the Historic District to rob someone and steal a car. He maintained that Tolbert, who lost one arm in a childhood accident, was the shooter and driver. But Blake told investigators that he pointed out Griffin, a businessman waiting for his fiancee to arrive, to his friend.

Maryland section, Tuesday, March 13.

Anne Arundel

Heaters blamed in deadly fire

A fire at an Annapolis home that killed a retired Naval Academy professor and his wife March 8 was caused by combustible items that were placed too close to a space heater, the Annapolis Fire Department said.

Investigators also found that the home, owned by Reuben E. Alley Jr. and his wife, Helene, both 88, did not have working smoke detectors or sprinklers.

Firefighters responding to the fire found the body of the professor emeritus in his home in the 200 block of Halsey Road in the Admiral Heights neighborhood. Alley, who taught electrical engineering, retired in 1993 but had maintained close ties with the academy.

Helene Alley suffered burns over 75 percent of her body and died the next day at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Maryland section, Monday, March 12

Anne Arundel

In switch, Wal-Mart seeks Supercenter

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has revamped its plans in Crofton and now wants to build the Baltimore region's fifth Supercenter, adding a supermarket to the retail chain's traditional shopping component - after repeatedly denying an interest in offering low-cost groceries.

A revised proposal recently submitted to Anne Arundel County shows a store of about 121,000 square feet - about 22,000 square feet smaller than the one first offered - but adding about 29,000 square feet for groceries.

Maryland section, Tuesday, March 13

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